To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, iconic vegetarian brand Linda McCartney Foods ran the three-day Veggie Table event – a vegetarian cooking demo in a Shoreditch studio kitchen. The event was hosted by vegetarian celeb Jay McGuiness of The Wanted and Strictly Come Dancing fame and I was lucky enough to be invited along by the organisers to check it out!
A short walk from Shoreditch Station, the kitchen was in a small business park surrounded by thrift stores, quirky bars and trendy independent cafes who serve their iced coffee in mason jars. Obviously. I was instantly reminded that I am definitely not cool enough for East London…
Once inside, we were welcomed into the bright reception lounge, which was beautifully decorated with wildflowers and rustic decor. And more mason jars. Obviously.
Here, we were served canapes featuring items from the Linda McCartney range, including mini sausage rolls, pulled “pork” with pomegranate seeds, and scampi with home-made ketchup.
The range seems to be heading a little more towards mock meat though I enjoyed most of it, the scampi was not for me. To be honest, it was a little too fishy for my liking so I palmed it off on my omnivorous friend. I’m sure the realistic taste is great for meat-reducers or veggies who miss meat but not so much for those grossed out by the thought of it. Still, it made for a cute canape.
We washed down our mini treats with tasty mocktails of Lemongrass & Ginger and Blueberry & Rosemary. Not gonna lie, I couldn’t help but think that the Lemongrass and Ginger Coolers would have been perfect with a splash of gin… Damn all-ages events!
We were given the chance to participate in a social media competition to win a copy of a Linda McCartney cookbook signed by Linda, Stella and Sir Paul McCartney! Swoon.
By simply writing my favourite veggie dish on a chalkboard and posting a pic to Twitter or Instagram, I could have my hands on this rare and priceless item. I reluctantly overcame my hatred of posting pics of myself on social media just to be in with a chance and my fingers are now firmly crossed!
After eating our fill of canapes, we were led into the studio kitchen where resident chef Greg was joined by Jay McGuiness.
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to admit this but… as someone with little interest in boy bands and reality TV competitions, I didn’t really know of McGuiness before the event. However, the smattering of teenaged girls in the room certainly did, most notably one who pre-show, hugged him and held on for dear life then shed silent, overwhelmed tears throughout the entire cooking demo… bless. I couldn’t help but recall my fangirl days of old with slight nostalgia.
Though I may not have been aware of his fame, McGuiness was clearly used to the limelight and was a gracious and entertaining host, interacting with the intimate crowd and cracking jokes as he acted the part of sous chef.
Outside of food festivals, I’ve never been to a live cooking demo and it was interesting to see the different ways you could easily whip up delicious dishes with staples from the Linda McCartney range. Of course, there was prep done beforehand but they all seemed pretty simple and quick.
The first dish on the menu was Vegetarian Pork Fajitas with Smashed Avocado (all the rage), using sliced strips of the Vegetarian Pulled Pork 1/4 lb Burgers.
The fajita filling smelt amazing as it sizzled on the hob and when we got our tasters, they were divine.
Next up was a Warm Catalan Salad with Vegetarian Chorizo, made with the Vegetarian Chorizo & Red Pepper Sausages.
Although I’ve long been a fan of Linda’s veggie sausage range, I admit to being pretty lazy with them. They tend to be my “emergency meal” when my fridge is running on empty towards the end of the month, or I need something quick and easy before a night out; I generally stick to sausage sandwiches or serving them with basic side salads. However, after seeing the sausage demo (heh), I vowed to be more adventurous with them from now on.
I mean, look at this thing of beauty…
The sausages were served with spiced potatoes and a warm veg salad which was full of different flavours and textures. One of the main flavours was fennel, which is an ingredient I love but find quite hard to incorporate into dishes of my own, so definitely giving this one a go. It was just a slight step up from sausage sandwiches!
Finally, with the help of an audience member, the hosts concocted a Vegetarian Duck, Ginger and Mango Rice Bowl using the Vegetarian Shredded Hoisin Duck.
Topped with a sesame dressing, this one smelt insanely good and it was almost too pretty to eat! Almost.
Of the three dishes it was pretty hard to pick my favourite but I may have to go with the chorizo salad, mainly because it turned something so simple into something super-interesting and flavoursome. However, I would definitely be keen to recreate all three dishes at home.
Along with all the tasty food, we received a free goodie bag to take home, which was a nice touch.
Overall, Linda’s Veggie Table was an entertaining event showcasing the versatility of vegetarian food. With just a little creativity, you can create a host of delicious dishes from the meat-free range to stop even the hardiest of carnivores asking, “But where’s the meat?!”
Disclaimer: I attended this event free of charge, as a guest of organiser Linda McCartney Foods.
© Sarah Dean and More Than Greens, 2017.